“ANGEL COME HOME. YOUR BABY IS BREATHING FUNNY. MITCH RAN OVER MY HOUSE WITH YOUR BABY. YOU NEED TO COME HOME!”
Within a few minutes, another neighbor called me, letting me know that Aunya had been rushed to the hospital in an ambulance! By this time I was wondering what in the world happened from the time I called my house at 9:30 am to check on them to 11:00 am when I was ready to leave work. I called my aunt since she was the General Manager of my store and she told me to clock out immediately. She also told me that she would meet me at my house. I didn’t have a car so asked my slow driving co-worker who moves like a turtle to take me home. My nerves were already on edge, but I was ready to take over the wheel and zoom through all the lights. What was normally a 6 minute drive to my house seemed like 45 minute drive with his slow tail behind the wheel.
When I finally arrived home a policeman was waiting outside my front door. Just the sight of him made my stomach churn. “This can’t be good,” I thought. As the officer greeted me, my aunt arrived. The police officer then told us he’d follow us to the hospital. When we pulled up to Lenoir Memorial Hospital a detective from the Kinston Police Department approached us. Once again, my stomach churned. “Something must be terribly wrong, why else would he be here,” I thought.
“Hello, Ms. McNair. My name is Detective Dawson,” he said, addressing me in a soft and caring tone. “As of this moment,” he began slowly as though he was choosing his words carefully, “Your daughter isn’t responding to light and… this could be a sign of …brain damage.”
My heart sank and I literally lost my breath. Brain damage?!? I shook my head, trying my best to keep it together, but my knees buckled and I fell to the floor. My mind started spinning out of control… why is my Aunya in this hospital…when I left for work she was fine… when I called home she was fine…now she is in this hospital unresponsive! Suddenly a nurse helped me up and held me by the arm as she escorted me down the hall into the room where my daughter laid fighting for her life.
Machines and wires. Wires and machines. My poor baby was hooked up to so many wires and machines. One nurse’s eyes filled with tears as she informed me that Aunya had to be air lifted to Pitt Memorial Hospital due to the severity of her trauma. This left me but a brief moment to spend with her before the helicopter transported her to Pitt Memorial. Still in disbelief, I gently kissed Aunya’s forehead as she tried to stay strong. I could tell that she sensed I was near because she kept trying to get up. She was turning her arms and legs inward and trying to lift them up in the air. For a second, just imagine that you’re looking at a crippled frog laying on its back, lifeless with its legs and arms spread wide open as if it’s struggling to get up to hop away. Although clinging to life, Aunya was strong and determined. Within moments, my baby was whisked away into the helicopter, headed to the trauma hospital.
As I left the room, my aunt and Detective Dawson stood on the outside of the hospital waiting for me. My aunt clutched me in her arms and told me to remain calm. As we were getting ready to leave the hospital Mitch finally arrived.
Detective Dawson wasted no time questioning Mitch.
“What was the condition of the child when you found her?” he asked with a pen and notepad ready to jot down Mitch’s answers.
“She was cool,” Mitch answered quickly.
Detective Dawson scribbled on his pad and then asked, “What was the temperature in the house?”
“If it’s warm outside AND warm in the house…” Detective Dawson began, rubbing his beard, “why did you find her cool?”
I wondered the same thing since it was early spring in the South.
Before Detective Dawson could question Mitch any further, my aunty piled Mitch and me into her car and gunned it to neighboring Greenville which is 30 minutes away. But my aunty got us there in about 20 minutes. She did her best to keep my spirits up and my mind off Aunya by cracking corny jokes during the ride to Greenville while Mitch cried like a baby the entire time. All of his crying made me feel a little uncomfortable because it was a bit much. My aunty and I kept exchanging glances wondering why he was crying so hard.
Word about Aunya spread like wild fire around town and by the time we entered into the family room of the hospital, my mom, aunt, grandma, sister, niece, and best friend were already there waiting. Suddenly the doctor who was attending Aunya burst through the doors, startling me. Everyone was huddled around me so I guess he figured out that I was Aunya’s mother.
He stood right in front of me. “Ms. Mcnair, Aunya has so much swelling on her brain that it will take 72 hours for it to go down. We put a pressure monitor in her head hoping this would relieve the swelling, but she will need a miracle to pull through this,” he said shaking his head. “I’m sorry, but I don’t see her making it through the night.” Just as quickly as he appeared, he disappeared behind those doors.
My entire body became numb and I couldn’t do anything except stand there looking at those closed doors.
Suddenly my grandma jumped up from her chair. Crying and pointing towards Mitch she shouted, “I told you not to let that boy watch your baby and now look what happened!” My mother chimed in and stormed towards Mitch. “You have my grandbaby’s blood on your hands!”
As everyone in the room grew quiet, I darted my eyes towards my mom and grandmother as if to say “now is not the time.” My mind was running a million miles per second and being bombarded with questions that I had no answers to…how did this happen…why is it happening…why is God putting Aunya through this? My heart sank into the pit of my stomach because I failed my baby girl. I am the one who is supposed to protect her from any harm, but I wasn’t there to save her. Never once did I think Mitch could be responsible for my daughter being in the hospital. Honestly, I didn’t know what to think—all I knew was my 8-month-old baby was fighting for her life.
The next hours in that hospital felt like an eternity. Between long hours of being questioned by the police, my family insinuating that Mitch was guilty, and bouts of guilt eating away at me, I really didn’t think I could go on. It was just too much for me. Instead of Mitch consoling me, he pled his innocence over and over again. He seemed to only think of himself and this got on my last nerves. I simply wanted this nightmare to end. I prayed and asked God to let me take Aunya’s place in order to spare her of the pain. But that would not be.
On March 27, 2000 at 8:15 AM, the doctors pronounced Aunya dead. It was the exact time she was born.
I honestly don’t remember exactly how I felt when I heard those words. The feeling is indescribable. All I could think about was pulling myself together to tell my son and daughter that they wouldn’t be able to see their little sister, hold or touch her, or help me fix her baby bag and bottles anymore. I felt like a complete failure to my kids. I blamed myself for Aunya’s death. I wasn’t at home when this horrible tragedy happened. If I were home she would be here today! Before I left the hospital I received a phone call from Kevin, Aunya’s father. I got in contact with his family in New York the day before and let them know about his daughter. Unfortunately, Kevin never got a chance to see Aunya because when I got pregnant I wanted nothing to do with him so he left and moved to South Carolina.
“What a way to meet your daughter for the first and last time,” I said.
Kevin broke down crying and sobbing uncontrollably over the phone. I could tell he was crushed.
On the day of Aunya’s home going, her father, aunt, sister and grandmother came down to say goodbye to a baby they never met. This was the first time that I met Jenny, Aunya’s half sister. When I first laid eyes upon her it was like a glow over her. No one had to tell me who she was. Jenny looked just like Aunya with her almond shaped eyes and ginger complexion. For a minute, I felt like I was looking at Aunya because they look just like twins!
A few days after Aunya’s funeral, the coroner released a preliminary report. Based upon the results, the coroner concluded that Aunya died from severe head trauma. With the evidence from the coroner’s report, the investigators questioned Mitch again. They got him to confess after leaving him all alone in the interrogation room with an enlarged picture of Aunya’s lifeless body on the coroner’s table. A few hours later, Mitch told them what happened.
In his confession he stated that he was walking up the steps while carrying Aunya when his pants fell down and he tripped. Aunya was so shaken up from the fall that she wouldn’t stop crying. When he couldn’t get her to stop crying, he held Aunya by her rib cage and slammed her down three times very hard. He recalled how her head jerked back and forth as he slammed her down repeatedly. The investigators revealed to Mitch that it was during this time that he snapped Aunya’s spinal chord. Mitch then told the detectives that he laid her down for approximately 30 minutes. When he went to check on her, it was then that he noticed her abnormal breathing. Mitch then ran cool bath water in the tub and placed toys in there so she could play with them. He said he was hoping that the cool water would help bring her back, but this was unsuccessful. That was how he killed my Aunya.
The truth was unbearable. How could Mitch do this to my baby?
When I heard about how he placed her toys in the tub, my mind went back to that afternoon of the incident when I came home and found the bathroom in disarray. Toys, feces, and a soiled pamper were strewn across the floor. I was doing relatively fine up until this point, but I lost it when I realized what Mitch had done and how he tried to cover up what he did. My pain cut so deeply that I didn’t cry, I howled. The pain I felt came from deep down in my belly.
I had to have Aunya’s scent around me. I had to have her scent on me. I started ripping my house apart searching for any trace of my baby. My friend Shelia helped me find one of Aunya’s shirts that still that had her scent on it. It smelled like baby lotion and formula, but as good as it smelled, I kept searching for more pieces of Aunya. I started shaking and mumbling, “No this ain’t it! I want my baby! Where is she?”
Finally, Sheila held me tightly and said, “It’s going to be okay.” She handed me one of Aunya’s sweaters, a pink one with a tiny angel on the front of it. I walked around for a couple of days with her pink sweater tied around my neck. This made me feel like we were still connected to each other. This went on well after Aunya’s home going. During this time, I wasn’t eating. I was just smoking and drinking. I went from weighing 160 pounds to 122 pounds. I felt as if I was dying, slowly slipping away each day. What really ate me up inside were the lies Mitch told his family.
He told his family and friends that my kids were bad and they were playing roughhouse with Aunya. According to him, they pulled her off the bed and that’s what caused her death. Really… the nerve of him. Even though he killed Aunya, I blamed myself for Aunya’s death because I brought this man into our lives. I gave this man access to my most prized possessions…my children. How can I not blame myself for her death? How can I forgive myself for this! The crazy thing is I pushed Kevin, her biological father away and allowed this stranger into Aunya’s life only for him to kill her because she wouldn’t stop crying. How could a man beat up on a defenseless 8-month-old baby? He ripped my heart out when he took my daughter’s life! He took her away from me. I can’t hold her, comb her thick curly hair, or dress her. My family can’t see her and no one can tell her that they love her. We’ll never be able to hear her say these words to us either.
Even though it’s been 11 years since Aunya’s death, I still feel like this is a bad dream and when I finally wake up she is going to be here with us. My heart cries out for my baby everyday because she’s supposed to be with me. She’s not here and it’s my fault! If I would have never gave into this monster, my baby would be alive. That’s why you have to watch the words that you say because the tongue is very powerful. If you constantly speak something into the atmosphere it will manifest. Back when I was pregnant with Aunya, I didn’t realize this. For 9 months I kept talking about how much I didn’t want any more kids and now she isn’t here with us. This is why I blame myself for her passing. There are plenty of days I wish I never spoke those words! I love and miss my baby and my heart continually aches for her.
On January 28, 2008 Mitch was released from prison after only serving an 8 year prison sentence for Aunya’s death. They charged Mitch with first degree murder, but he took the plea bargain and received a reduced charge of second degree murder with hatred and malice. The investigators stated that Mitch had to have actual hate for her in order for him to injure her the way he did. This let me know that he was abusing her the entire time we were together. The injuries that Mitch inflicted upon Aunya were never visible, everything was underneath, but the coroner’s report revealed that she had bruises all over her innocent body.
It’s never easy to cope with the death of a child especially if they were abused and murdered. Although I deal with the pain on a daily basis, I have become wiser and I offer you the following advice. Never put a man before your kids. Always protect, cherish, and love your children. Give them random hugs and always show how much you appreciate them. Most importantly, know who you’re bringing around your kids. Know the signs of abuse. Don’t live in denial. Please seek help because later will be too late.
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